In my last post, I shared about the orphaned children who touched my life during a recent trip to Guatemala with Buckner International. While we were there, I was privileged to sit in on a special meeting to address the situation, where I witnessed excellent leadership in action.
The meeting was with the Minister of Social Welfare of Guatemala, Silvia Raquel Vielman de León de Alcázar, who reports directly to the Guatemalan President.
I was honored to be a guest of Dr. Albert Reyes, CEO of Buckner International, and his leadership team. We were warmly welcomed by the Minister, a dynamic lady, probably in her late thirties or early forties, dressed in an impeccable business suit. She offered us coffee and cookies, while her staff scurried around making sure to situate us in the formal manner of the Guatemalan custom. After each person introduced themselves, she began speaking about—mis hijos—her kids. Not her own children, but the orphaned children of Guatemala.
Leaders acknowledge the problem.
The Minister started by saying, “We have a challenge in Guatemala.” She talked about all the orphaned children they have in institutions and said, “Children deserve to be in a loving family.” She expressed how much she and the government want to see improvement in child placement in homes such as foster care, adoption, or tracing and reunification with their biological families. However, due to a lack of resources, they are limited in meeting these objectives.
As I was listening to her speak, I thought to myself how refreshing it is to see leaders who are grounded. It is wonderful to witness leaders who are not afraid to stop and face difficult realities, acknowledge them, tell others what they see, and deal with these challenges head on.
Leaders ask for help.
The Minister then said to Dr. Reyes, “We need your help.” These four powerful words say so much about a leader. It says that a leader is humble enough to recognize that they cannot do it alone. When a leader sincerely asks for help, he makes others feel like they are part of the journey, like they are partnering together to accomplish something meaningful. When a leader looks to his team and genuinely tells them, “I need your help,” they will feel valued and come along with him in a whole different spirit, than if he tells them, “This is what I need from you.” Regardless of title or position, leaders need help. I need help. You need help.
Leaders need help creating an inspiring vision, refining it, and reaching farther. And we need help getting there. I try my best to communicate that to the people I lead, that I need their help. They are not there to do whatever I see fit. We are in this together. The Minister clearly gets that. Even though she was asking for help from someone outside of her team, she was clearly inviting us to become a part of the journey, not asking for favors to promote her own agenda.
Leaders are passionate about people.
I, and the others in the group, marveled at how the Minister continuously referred to the orphaned children of Guatemala as mis hijos throughout the entire meeting. She would say, “My kids deserve a home.” Or, “I would like the best of everything for my kids.” And, “We want to change the lives of our children in this country.” She said, “I want for our kids what I want for my own children.” It was clear that the people she served were not merely orphans. They were not just children she cared about. They were her kids!
How powerful it is when leaders see the people they serve as their own family. People they truly care about, love, and cherish. I think that’s when transformation happens in our lives, as leaders, when our love for others rises to uncommon levels.
Do you think of the people you lead and the people you serve as your own family? For me, Minister De Alcazar challenged me that day to redouble my efforts to continually see people in that manner of the heart. Because that’s where great leadership springs from, hearts that truly care.
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